RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond City Council approved a rezoning application Monday Night that would allow two blocks of surface parking to be turned into a mixed-use development in Manchester.

The zoning application, approved by city council on the consent agenda, applies to three full city blocks, two of which are parking lots, and one of which is the aging high-rise headquarters of TForce Freight, a logistics company.

Currently, the three plots are zoned as a mix of RF-2 (Riverfront), B-6 (Mixed-Use) and R-63 (Multifamily). But those zonings are a slightly misleading, as 2/3 of the area is dedicated solely to parking.

The three plots under consideration are shown in red. (Courtesy of the City of Richmond)

“While plans have not yet been established, the property owner wishes to rezone these properties to allow for mixed-use developments that would comply with the TOD-1 zoning district regulations,” the developers wrote.

“TOD-1” is the city’s zoning category for “Transit-Oriented Development,” that is, walkable development anchored around high-capacity public transit lines like the Pulse BRT.

That designation would open up the lots to be used for a number of new buildings, from shopping to housing or community services. It would also, the developers hope, reduce the number of required parking spaces for the TForce building.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the lots around the building have mostly sat empty.

The developers also pitched the rezoning as a way to support a city proposal for a Bus Rapid Transit line through southside.

“The plan specifically recommends a Bus Rapid Transit line running through Manchester
along nearby Cowardin Ave,” they wrote.

They argued that in order for BRT to succeed, currently empty parcels like theirs must have “sufficient density and mix of high quality commercial and residential uses.”

This map shows areas in Southside Richmond that are more than a mile from the nearest grocery store.

At a meeting with the Manchester Alliance in January, the developers also hinted that the new zoning could bring a much-needed grocery store to Manchester, which is one of Richmond’s largest food deserts.

“The members were generally supportive of the rezoning and especially that the new regulations may bring new businesses such as a grocery store to the neighborhood,” the developers wrote.